3 Reasons Why We Need To Go Back To Hand-Writing Letters

It may seem old-school, but hand-written letters hold far more benefits than a text message ever could. Here's why you should consider bringing them back into your life.

Mark Travers, Ph.D.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | June 11, 2024

Reconnecting with old friends in today's age often starts with "Hi, how have you been?" and can lead to different outcomes:

  • An "I have been well, how are you?" may lead to a brief exchange of life updates.
  • An "I am okay." ends abruptly and doesn't leave the door open for any further communication.
  • Being left on read buries the conversation under other messages, draining all its potential.

In the age of instant communication, where conversations happen in short, mono-syllabic bursts, there exists an underrated way to feel more connected to your loved ones—writing letters.

While our digital lives may have overshadowed the art of writing letters, its numerous benefits stand the test of time. Here are three ways writing letters can enhance your personal connections:

1. Letters Make Emotions Tangible

Imagine sorting through your mail, dealing with bills and subscriptions, only to come across a handwritten letter from a loved one. It's a delightful surprise that fills you with both excitement and gratitude, knowing that someone cares enough to take the time and write you a letter.

While digital emails and messages can easily get lost in the daily barrage of information, a physical letter stands out as something tangible that you can hold, cherish and revisit. It serves as a reassuring reminder that you and your relationships truly matter.

According to a 2020 study released by the United States Postal Service (USPS), when digital communication was thriving, 65% of individuals acknowledged that receiving a handwritten letter boosted their morale, while approximately 67% indicated that they have sent or are willing to send mail to their family and friends.

2. Letters Convey Intention And Deliberate Action

A letter provides a private space, enabling individuals to express thoughts that may be too uncomfortable or awkward to convey in person or on social media. The exchange of handwritten letters is not merely a transaction but rather a shared experience that says—here's something special between you and me.

While social media friendships often occur in a multi-tasking setting, letter-writing friendships demand a singular focus. They encourage people to slow down, contemplate, inquire and derive meaning. Writing letters is an act of intent and deliberation that spells out the care and thought put into them.

A letter is a particularly beneficial medium for individuals who struggle to fully express themselves, whether due to social anxiety or fear of rejection. In such cases, a handwritten letter can serve as a convenient and effective method to communicate their emotions accurately.

A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin has shown that engaging in written emotional expression can assist individuals with a fear of rejection, in managing stress and reducing negative emotions.

3. Letters Provide An Outlet For Things Left Unsaid

Unresolved matters—stemming from lingering arguments, unexpressed feelings or unvoiced thoughts due to a lack of introspection—often trigger stress and rumination.

Addressing these unspoken sentiments not only brings you closer to your loved ones but also fosters self-understanding. Death and grief are among the most discussed topics in letters, be it the loss of someone beloved or the grief of separation. Letters provide a space for closure and emotional choking.

Composing letters, particularly about challenging topics like stressful events or past traumatic experiences, can be beneficial. This includes writing letters to both close others and to your past or future self.

A study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that writing about stressful or traumatic experiences can improve emotional and physical health. Writing about upsetting experiences creates more positive expectations and is linked to reduced emotional impact and fewer physical symptoms. Writing makes emotional experiences feel more meaningful and creates positive expectations about feeling better.

Therefore, the next time you get into an argument, writing a letter to your loved one and conveying your sincere feelings and expectations may prove helpful and even strengthen your bonds.

Do you often struggle with expressing your feelings? Take the Authenticity In Relationships Scale to know if you need professional support.

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